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The caveman: expert hunter or avid duster?

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Recent studies at the university of Cambridge show that the Neanderthal man may have spent more time doing house hold chores than out with the lads hunting.

Researchers studied the distinctive skeletal features from remains of the Neanderthals, shattering the traditional image of a club wielding caveman.

Their study shows that compared Homosapiens today, and most prehistoric Homosapiens, Neanderthals' rights arms were significantly overdeveloped. Often the right arm was a huge 50% stronger than their left.

Traditionally it was thought that their stronger right arm signified that Neanderthals carried spears.  However, after this study the asymmetry is accredited with the less glamorous task of house work.

It is now thought that Neanderthals may have spent a significant amount of time scraping animal hides using tools made out of stone, and making clothes.

Dr Colin Shaw, from the PAVE research group and the McDonald Institute for Archaeological Research at the University of Cambridge, said: "The asymmetry we see in the arms of Neanderthals is far more profound than anything we encounter in modern humans except some sports people, such as cricketers and tennis players.

"The skeletal remains suggest that Neanderthals were doing something intense or repetitive, or both, that had a significant role in their lives.

"If it was hunting, it was taking up a great deal of their time. Not surprisingly, that theory has coloured our view of Neanderthal 'the hunter'."

"Our research moves away from that perspective. Hunting was an important part of the lives of Neanderthals.

"However, for much of their time Neanderthals might have been performing other tasks, such as preparing skins.

"If we are right, it changes our picture of the daily activities of Neanderthals."

The idea that Neanderthals' skeletal symmetry might be in accordance with their hunting habits was prevalent in the mid 1900s, he added. However, the bones are the wrong shape to support this theory and it is more probable that the Neanderthal man carried spears two handed or underarm, similar to a pool cue.




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